Saigon/HCMC

Saigon/HCMC

Featuring Bánh Mì Huỳnh Hoa, Banh Mi Hong Hoa, Secret Garden Restaurant & Teahouse Rooftop 158 Pasteur, Dist 1, Pho' 2000
Nobelle Liew
Nobelle Liew

I won’t call a meal here mindblowing by any standard, but it is definitely hearty, homely, and worth every penny. You won’t find anything “highly instagrammable” or “inventive”, instead an extensive menu of classic Vietnamese family fare. We got 5 dishes to share among 2, and ended up with almost more food than we can finish for a pleasant price of ~$38. Everything was well-seasoned, served with a saucer of soy sauce and chilli just in case you like it saltier, and the veggies in particular were fresh and cooked perfectly to retain a nice bite. Can’t say I know the best, but I’d say definitely go for Tonkin flower with garlic, as well as the Braised tofu with pork ✌🏻

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Pros: it’s centrally located around the Ben Thanh market with a massive signboard, so it’s an obvious choice for dinner for spent feet. Cons: broth tasted one dimensional, slices of meat were sparse, which really makes the 85.000VND way too unwarranted. Arriving there around peak dinner hour and finding the space 3 quarts full was a happy sign, dampened only by the realisation that they were all tourists. Suffice to say I wasn’t at all impressed with this.

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With a seeming cult following of its own, Huynh Hoa masses a sizable queue the moment it rolls out for the day; which also means the staff aren’t all that friendly and you’ve gotta deal with their “ugh tourists” expressions. Their bahn mi is significantly larger than Hong Hoa’s (longer baguette and stuffed to the brim with cold-cut meats), and there’s only one option on the menu so you really don’t have much to think about. Crusty baguette: tick, though I found it a tad harder than Hong Hoa’s. Crunchy veggies and chilli: tick, and note the kick from the chilli’s a lot more aggressive. Meats: tick, a mountain of mixed cold cuts that classic bahn mi enthusiasts would enjoy. At almost double the price of Hong Hoa’s, I gotta say it’s definitely well worth your buck for the generous layers of meats piled on. My only reserve is I’m not the biggest fan of that gelatinous sliced cold-cut, and that they’re moving at such an automated pace you can’t really ask them to kindly remove “neh that one I don’t like”.

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Simply called “bread with meatballs” doesn’t quite do this justice. For one their meatballs aren’t the firm chewy sort we’re used to at home, instead more akin to mounds of soft, tasty pâté and mince — which really adds a whole lotta flavour to the bahn mi. There’s also a surprising element of sweetness to the meatballs which I found brought a fantastic balance to it all. If you’re worried about the texture, fret not. Think about it as a tuna mayo kinda consistency, with the fresh baguette and fresh greens providing the much needed crunch to your sarnies.

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Just around the corner from the also famous Huynh Hoa Bakery, Hong Hoa is a really nondescript tiny store that dishes up honestly fab bahn mis at shockingly Low prices. We got 2 to try, the first being this roast pork number. Juicy and tender, with scraps of crackling slipped between, a good balance of meat and fat, this definitely makes for a mighty pleasing sandwich. As expected the baguette was 👌🏻 crisp on the outside, fluffy and chewy on the insides, a perfect medium for all the flavours. I especially liked how there were bits of chilli inside the bahn mi, adding hints of unexpected spice here and there. Only thing was they used a lot less veggies and herbs as compared to Hong Hoa, so if you like your fresh greens you may be better off at the other spot.

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Spending all my time eating (and eating) cause what else is there to do in small 🌞🌞 Singapore?

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